Toronto Wolfpack’s Debut and the Globalisation of the Rugby League Challenge Cup

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The Challenge Cup – the most historic competition in Rugby League.

 

This weekend will see Canadian-based side Toronto Wolfpack, who are already the first ever trans-Atlantic professional sports team, also become the first to compete in the Rugby League Challenge Cup.

With Paul Rowley and Brian Noble in the Wolfpack’s coaching staff along with the additions of numerous players with Super League experience Toronto head into their first competitive game against National Conference side Siddal surrounded by hype, but also expectation.

However, despite being the first trans-Atlantic side to compete in the Challenge Cup they aren’t the first non-English side to enter the competition with over a dozen foreign sides trying their hand in the historic competition over the years.

In 2007 Catalans Dragons became the first non-English side to reach the Challenge Cup final when they were defeated 30-8 by St Helens. Incidentally, this was also the first cup final to be played at the new Wembley Stadium.

Catalans had already begun to break down the barriers for sides in countries without a prominent Rugby League history and their 2007 Challenge Cup run was the beginning of an ever-growing trend of globalisation in Rugby League.

But, the Dragons weren’t the first French side to ply their trade in the Challenge Cup.

2001 saw the Villeneuve Leopards progress to the quarter-finals of the competition knocking out established English side Rochdale Hornets in the process. Unfortunately, a 32-0 defeat at the hands of Warrington at Wilderspool ended any hopes of cup heroics.

Four years later and clubs from across the Channel were again making an impact with three sides in the competition – Pia XIII, UTC and Toulouse Olympique. Pia and UTC both reached the last sixteen before defeats to Leeds and Wigan meaning it was left to the latter to make history.

Toulouse overcame Wath Brow Hornets, Doncaster and Widnes on their way to a semi-final clash with Leeds. A 56-18 defeat prevented them making the final but they became the most successful foreign side the competition had ever seen – until Catalans’ 2007 exploits.

Following Toulouse’s remarkable run there was a small influx of non-English sides to the tournament.

Again, Pia XIII, Toulouse, Limoux Grizzlies and Catalans represented France but Celtic Crusaders’ introduction to British Rugby League made room for Welsh representation. The Crusaders first Challenge Cup game also came against foreign opposition as they hosted Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow.

Russian duo Lokomotiv Moscow and Kazan Arrows debuted in the competition in 2001 but Moscow’s fixture against the Crusaders was the first all non-English tie in the Challenge Cup. The Crusaders came out on top in comfortable fashion and Leigh dispatched of the Arrows with an 80-0 victory.

A Russian side hasn’t featured in the competition since 2009 when Lokomotiv Moscow suffered an 82-6 defeat to Leigh.

Celtic Crusaders (now North Wales Crusaders) have continued to compete in the Challenge Cup since their debut back in 2006 but have only managed a 5th round appearance in 2010. Other welsh teams such as the Valley Cougars, Bonymaen Broncos and semi-professional side South Wales Ironmen (formerly known as South Wales Scorpions) have all entered.                      

Over the past four seasons the Aberdeen Warriors have represented Scotland in the Challenge Cup but are yet to earn a victory with defeats to Pilkington Recs, Skirlaugh and Northumbria University. Another defeat to Pilkington Recs saw them exit this year’s competition in the first round.

Mixed results for non-English sides over the years means it is difficult to completely welcome the idea of a more global competition.

Toulouse and Catalans’ cup runs encourage the idea of a wider competition but heavy defeats Russian, Welsh and Scottish sides would indicate the rest of the world aren’t quite ready to challenge consistently at the top level.

With discussions regarding the World Club Series taking centre stage again in recent weeks it’s important to remember Australia don’t have a knockout competition like the Challenge Cup.

Could Australian sides enter the Challenge Cup instead of the World Club Series? Possibly a far-fetched idea but the possibilities for the competition are endless if the world of Rugby League allows it room to grow.

Whatever the arguments for, or against, more non-English sides entering the competition one thing is for certain and that is that this weekend, no matter the result, Toronto Wolfpack will make history.

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Match Report – Halifax RL 42-16 Sheffield Eagles

Sheffield failed to follow up an impressive victory over Toulouse last weekend as they fell to a heavy 42-16 defeat against Halifax at The Shay.

Halifax opened an eighteen-point lead thanks to tries from Adam O’Brien, Scott Murrell and Ben Johnston. The Eagles did close the gap before half-time when Scott Wheeldon, who spent ten minutes in the sin-bin, powered over.

However, Halifax maintained control after the break with James Saltonstall crossing for a second-half hat-trick alongside tries from Luke Ambler and Steve Tyrer. Sheffield did score twice in the closing stages through Ben Blackmore and Duane Straugheir.

Wheeldon was sent to the sin-bin in the first half following a trip while dual-registration player Dayne Weston spent ten minutes on the sideline in the second half after giving away back-to-back penalties.

Halifax opened the scoring inside the opening five minutes as Adam O’Brien, who signed on a one-month loan from Huddersfield in midweek, burrowed his way over from close-range. Steve Tyrer converted.

The Eagles came close on a couple of occasions but Scott Wheeldon was soon sent to the bin for tripping following a quick Halifax tap restart.

The hosts immediately took advantage and extended their lead just before the twenty-minute mark when Scott Murrell’s short-ball put Jacob Fairbank through. The loose-forward returned the ball to Murrell who went in under the posts. Tyrer converted.

Minutes later Halifax were in again as O’Brien jumped from hooker before Ben Johnston crossed unchallenged. Tyrer converted.

However, in the closing stages of the first-half Wheeldon made amends for his sin-bin by crashing over to get the Eagles back into the game before the interval. Brown converted.

Unfortunately for the Eagles they started the second-half slowly and James Saltonstall took advantage of some quick hands out wide after just three minutes. Luke Ambler powered his way over just a few moments later. Tyrer converted Ambler’s try but failed to add the extras from Saltonstall’s.

Halifax’s dominance continued as Saltonstall crossed for a second following a move to the blind-side from a scrum. Tyrer converted. With twenty minutes remaining Halifax wrapped the game up when Tyrer bundled his way over out wide.

Sheffield didn’t lie down however as Dane Chisholm created an overlap which allowed Ben Blackmore to finish well in the corner. Chisholm was again the creator as his short-ball put Duane Straugheir over with five minutes left.

But the last laugh went to the hosts as Saltonstall took advantage of a loose pass from the Eagles to score his hat-trick in the final minute of the game sealing a 42-16 victory for the hosts.

The Eagles host Batley Bulldogs at the Beaumont Legal Stadium on Sunday 26th February while Halifax travel to Rochdale Hornets.

Halifax: Sharp; Saltonstall, Tyrer, Woodburn-Hall, Worrincy; Murrell, Johnston; Boyle, O’Brien, Cahalane; Barber, Grix, Fairbank.

Interchanges: Morris, Wilkinson, Ambler, Lannon.

Eagles: Chisholm; Lo, Yere, Whiteley, Blackmore; Brown, Minchella; Wheeldon, Fozard, Weston; James, Hope, Burr.

Interchanges: Straugheir, Trout, Scott, Harper.

Referee: Chris Kendall. Touch Judges: H. Neville & J. Jones. Attendance: 1241.

Four Nations 2016: The Preview

This weekend marks the beginning of the Rugby League Four Nations with Australia, England, Scotland and defending champions New Zealand all battling it out to take home the title.

Here is a team-by-team preview.

Australia

Ten-time World Cup winners and five-time Tri-Nations/Four Nations champions Australia head into the competition as favourites to take the trophy home. Australia’s newzealandvaustraliarugbyleagueworldu_7yre4y3jaldominance on the international stage has been clear for a prolonged period of time with only occasional defeats to the Kiwi’s preventing them from perfection. For former Australia centre and Queensland State of Origin Coach Mal Meninga it will be his first test in a competitive tournament and he will be looking to begin his international coaching career in similar fashion to many of his predecessors by winning silverware.

Meninga has named five potential debutants in his 21-man squad with James Maloney, Matt Moylan, Justin O’Neill, Jake Trbojevic and Jake Friend all potentially wearing the Australia jersey for the first time. Maloney has had a great season with Cronulla winning the NRL Grand Final and will offer Australia a lot in the final third. Moylan is a dangerous full-back while Justin O’Neill provides a lot of pace and power in out wide which the Kangaroos will certainly utilise.

Despite the new boys coming into the squad it’s Australia’s experienced men who will lead the side and are likely to make the difference in the big games. Jonathan Thurston is instrumental in the halves and can change a game at the flick of a switch. Thurston’s timing in the final third is near perfect and his kicking game will cause problems for any team. Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith will guide the Australian’s around the field and expect Greg Inglis to make an impact as he always does.

Australia are the number one side in the world despite losing out to New Zealand in the 2014 Four Nations. The Kangaroos will expect nothing less than to dominate the competition and to win their third Four Nations crown however it may be more difficult this year than it has been in the past.

Squad: Darius Boyd (Brisbane), Matt Moylan (Penrith), Valentine Holmes (Cronulla), Blake Ferguson (Sydney), Josh Mansour (Penrith), Josh Dugan (St George), Greg Inglis (Souths), Justin O’Neill (North Queensland), James Maloney (Cronulla), Michael Morgan (North Queensland), Cooper Cronk (Melbourne), Shannon Boyd (Canberra), David Klemmer (Canterbury), Matthew Scott (North Queensland), Jake Trbojevic (Manly), Aaron Woods (Wests), Cameron Smith (Melbourne), Jake Friend (Sydney), Boyd Cordner (Sydney), Tyson Frizell (St George), Matt Gillett (Brisbane), Sam Thaiday (Brisbane), Trent Merrin (Penrith)

Coach: Mal Meninga (Australia)

Key Player: Cooper Cronk

One to Watch: Aaron Woods

Prediction: Winners

England

Wayne Bennett takes charge of his first competitive matches as England coach following his 6-40 warm-up victory over France in Avignon last weekend. Bennett is an experienced coach who is the most decorated in NRL history and will be looking to further his legacy by bringing a Four Nations title to England.

Of course, the Four Nations mark the return to international Rugby League for Sam englandvfijirugbyleagueworldcupgrouphz5hdduaiuglBurgess, who will also captain the side. Sam was at his best the last time he wore the England jersey in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and there is no doubting he will lead from the front and look to find the form he displayed three years ago. England’s forwards can definitely match the Kiwi’s and Aussies with a lot of them currently plying their trade in the NRL. James Graham, Mike Cooper, Elliot Whitehead and the Burgess twins will provide a huge amount of power up the middle and will look to dominate from the outset.

However, England’s backs may struggle to thrive in comparison with the forwards. Winger’s Ryan Hall and Jermaine McGillvary both struggled this season competing in the qualifiers with Leeds and Huddersfield respectively. Kallum Watkins was a sensation in 2015 but failed to find the form that saw him linked with numerous NRL sides last season. In the halves England lack international experience with Kevin Brown, George Williams and Luke Gale only having a total of eight England caps between them. As the most experienced half-back Gareth Widdop will need to step up on the biggest stage.

The obvious goal for the England side is to come away with the Four Nations title but they need to reach the final first – a feat they have managed in two Four Nations competitions before losing out to Australia.

Squad: Jonny Lomax (Saints), Stefan Ratchford (Warrington), Ryan Hall (Leeds), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield), John Bateman (Wigan), Mark Percival (Saints), Dan Sarginson (Gold Coast), Kallum Watkins (Leeds), Gareth Widdop (St George), Kevin Brown (Widnes), George Williams (Wigan), Luke Gale (Castleford), George Burgess (Souths), Tom Burgess (Souths), Mike Cooper (St George), James Graham (Canterbury), Chris Hill (Warrington), Scott Taylor (Hull FC), Daryl Clark (Warrington), Josh Hodgson (Canberra), Sam Burgess (Souths), Liam Farrell (Wigan), Stevie Ward (Leeds), Elliot Whitehead (Canberra)

Coach: Wayne Bennett (Australia)

Key Player: Sam Burgess

One to Watch: Josh Hodgson

Prediction: Runners-up

New Zealand

New Zealand head into this year’s Four Nations as the current champions following their 22-18 victory over Australia in 2014. England aren’t the only side who’ve had a change of coach since the last competition with Dave Kidwell now in charge of the Kiwi’s. Kidwell was the assistant to Stephen Kearney who left his role earlier this season. Kidwell’s first game in charge didn’t go exactly to plan as his side suffered a 26-6 defeat to Australia but he will be looking to avenge that defeat in the coming weeks.shaunjohnsonnewzealandvcookislandsxuczgnofd0ol

The Kiwi’s main threat comes from half-back Shaun Johnson whose lightning quick feet help him slide through defences without being touched. Johnson also possesses an extremely strong passing and kicking game and will be allowed to express himself alongside the experienced head of Thomas Leuluai. Jason Nightingale’s finishing ability could be a key factor for New Zealand along with the pace of Shaun Kenny-Dowall in the centres.

In the forwards the Kiwi’s aren’t short of power. Experienced campaigners such as Adam Blair, Jesse Bromwich and Greg Eastwood will bring the ball up all day and will stand toe-to-toe with Scotland, England and Australia. Isaac Luke is a dynamic hooker who can exploit a quick play-the-ball but can often let his aggression get the better of him. Jason Taumalolo is a big loose-forward whose work rate in defence is hard to match.

As defending champions New Zealand will come into the tournament with the expectation of retaining their crown. However, with the Australians being as strong as they are and England improving by the game it will be a tough task for the Kiwi’s and Kidwell.

Squad: Jordan Kahu (Brisbane), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith), David Fusitu’a (NZ Warriors), Jason Nightingale (St George), Jordan Rapana (Canberra), Gerard Beale (Cronulla), Solomone Kata (NZ Warriors), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney), Te Maire Martin (Penrith), Shaun Johnson (NZ Warriors), Thomas Leuluai (Wigan), Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne), Adam Blair (Brisbane), Jarad Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney), Isaac Luke (NZ Warriors), Lewis Brown (Manly), Tohu Harris (Melbourne), Manu Ma’u (Parramatta), Kevin Proctor (Melbourne), Joseph Tapine (Canberra), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury), James Fisher-Harris (Penrith), Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland), Martin Taupau (Manly).

Coach: David Kidwell (New Zealand)

Key Player: Isaac Luke

One to Watch: Shaun Johnson

Prediction: 3rd

Scotland

Since the addition of a fourth nation to the competition Wales, France, Papua New Guinea and Samoa have all competed and this year it’s the turn of debutants Scotland. Steve McCormack’s side qualified for the Four Nations by narrowly winning the 2014 European Cup on points difference. The Bravehearts most recent competition didn’t end as well as they finished at the foot of the table in the 2015 European Cup but they did reach the quarter-finals in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup before a 40-4 defeat to eventual finalists New Zealand.47869-jpg

Scotland’s main man is experienced Huddersfield half-back Danny Brough. Brough has been a pivotal player for the Giants and Scotland and any attacking threat the Scots pose will likely come through this man. Huddersfield teammate Ryan Brierley will start alongside Brough and offers a greater running game than Brough. Expect Brierley to use his pace to cut through defences and try and make a name for himself on the international stage after scoring so regularly for Leigh in the Championship.

The Bravehearts squad actually has a strong Championship contingent who will be given the opportunity to prove themselves on the biggest stage. Danny Addy, who recently signed for Hull KR, has proven himself over the past few seasons with Bradford alongside Dale Ferguson. Ben Hellewell has had an excellent season for London Broncos while Liam Hood helped Leigh to promotion. Scotland do have two very clinical Super League wingers however in Matty Russell and Lewis Tierney if the Scots can get these two into try-scoring positions they will definitely get some points on the board.

There is no doubting that Scotland will have prepared well for this tournament and will be full of confidence however to get to the final will be too much to ask. If Scotland manage to win a game it would be a huge achievement for them and it will make the group stage very exciting but it is very unlikely. Scotland will look to put in some solid performances and use the competition as a stepping stone for the future.

Squad: Lachlan Coote (North Queensland), Matty Russell (Warrington), David Scott (Batley), Lewis Tierney (Wigan), Euan Aitken (St George), Ben Hellewell (London B), Kane Linnett (North Queensland), Ryan Brierley (Huddersfield), Danny Brough (Huddersfield), Callum Phillips (Workington), Sam Brooks (Widnes), Luke Douglas (Gold Coast), Ben Kavanagh (Bradford), Billy McConnachie (Ipswich), Kieran Moran (Hull KR), Sheldon Powe-Hobbs (Northern Pride), Adam Walker (Saints), Liam Hood (Leigh), Ryan Maneely (Halifax), Frankie Mariano (Unattached), Brett Phillips (Workington), Danny Addy (Bradford), Tyler Cassel (Wests), Dale Ferguson (Bradford).

Coach: Steve McCormack (England)

Key Player: Danny Brough

One to Watch: Lachlan Coote

Prediction: 4th

Fixtures

  • Australia vs Scotland – Friday, 28th October – 8pm – KC Lightstream Stadium, Hull.
  • England vs New Zealand – Saturday, 29th October –  2:30pm – John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield.
  • England vs Scotland – Saturday, 5th November – 5:30pm – Ricoh Arena, Coventry.
  • New Zealand vs Australia – Saturday, 5th November – 8pm – Ricoh Arena, Coventry.
  • New Zealand vs Scotland – Friday, 11th November – 8pm – The Zebra Claims Stadium, Workington.
  • England vs Australia – Sunday, 13th November – 2pm – London Olympic Stadium, London.
  • The Final – Sunday, 20th November – 2:30pm – Anfield, Liverpool.

The opening fixture of the 2016 Four Nations sees Australia face Scotland in Hull before England host New Zealand in Huddersfield the following day.

The second round of fixtures is a double-header at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry which is new ground for international Rugby League as the RFL continue to grow and develop the game in new areas. Coventry Bears have competed in League One for the past year and the international double-header could be the catalyst for further growth in the area. England vs Scotland kicks off a 5:30pm before Australia and New Zealand go head-to-head at 8pm.

Workington’s Zebra Claims Stadium hosts the first game of round three on Friday 11th November as Scotland face New Zealand. The London Olympic Stadium is the venue for the final group game, as the RFL continue to try and take the sport to the South, with England facing Australia.

In line with the new venues Liverpool FC’s Anfield stadium will host the final which is expected to be a sell-out.

Prediction

It is hard to look past the Australians as they always seem too quick, strong and clever for the rest of the international sides. It is also very difficult to see Scotland winning a game they may but in some valiant performances but they simply don’t have the talent to compete with the other three sides. England’s opening game against New Zealand is therefore crucial as the winner is likely to earn 2nd place behind the Australians and a place in the final. Personally, I think England will come out on top against the Kiwis but will fall just short in the final against the Kangaroos.

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Hull KR 18-25 Leigh Centurions – Match Report

 

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Andrew Dixon celebrates his try. (BBC Sport)

The super-eights concept has raised the question whether a Championship side could realistically earn promotion via the qualifiers however Leigh have certainly eased the criticism and propelled their promotion push with an 18-25 victory over Hull KR.

Leigh’s victory mean they become the first Championship side to beat a Super League side away in a middle-eights fixture. The Centurions have now won all four of their middle-eights fixtures and have now defeated two Super League sides following their victory over Salford three weeks ago.

It was against Hull KR in last year’s middle-eights when Leigh let slip a 24-4 lead at half-time slip away and suffered a narrow 26-36 defeat at home which started their end of season dip in form.

Three tries in sequence in the early stages of the second-half allowed Leigh to take the lead. Andrew Dixon, Matty Dawson and Josh Drinkwater all scored. Sam Hopkins had crossed to pull the Centurions to within six points before half-time. A late Martyn Ridyard drop-goal confirmed victory.

KR did lead by twelve points after two early tries from Ken Sio and Josh Mantellato. Matty Marsh scored with fifteen minutes remaining but it wasn’t enough to force a comeback for the home side. Sio eventually left the field with an eye injury. Albert Kelly missed the game for the Super League side following a suspension from the club for arriving home from Australia late.

Leigh now sit in 2nd place in the qualifiers behind, the only other team with a 100% record, Leeds. As for KR they remain in 4th place which means they would have to compete in the ‘Million Pound Game’ currently against London Broncos.

Four Centurions defenders dumped Thomas Minns into touch with the very first tackle of the game and it looked as though it would sent the tempo for the visitors. However, Leigh conceded three consecutive penalties in the following defensive set and Hull KR gained control of the game.

Cory Paterson shoved Ben Cockayne to the floor which awarded KR their third penalty which gave them the opportunity to kick at goal which Mantellato took and converted.

A huge kick from Maurice Blair soon forced a goal-line dropout as Dawson couldn’t escape the chasing KR defenders. From the resulting set some quick hands out wide from the home side eventually found Sio on the bounce, the winger scooped up the ball and finished well after falling to his knees.

Drinkwater conceded a 4th Leigh penalty in ten minutes and KR crossed for a second when a looping pass was taken well by Mantellato. Mantellato missed the conversion but did sink a penalty goal following an obstruction six minutes later.

Despite all KR’s pressure they couldn’t score again before the interval. Leigh did force their way over when Sam Hopkins powered his way over Ben Cockayne and Mitchell Allgood. Ridyard’s conversion meant the Championship side only trailed by six points at half-time.

Leigh’s lightning start for the first tackle was repeated in the second-half but the Centurions managed to prolong their momentum by scoring three tries in five minutes. Dixon was the first to score as he collect Ridyard’s offload and raced to the line.

A high Josh Drinkwater bomb caused issues for Cockayne who dropped the ball in testing conditions Dawson reacted quickest and planted the ball down to give Leigh the lead. Drinkwater scored one himself just moments later when Paterson split the KR defence and then found the Australian half-back who finished under the posts.

But the game wasn’t over Cockayne stepped through the Centurions line and had half-back Matty Marsh in support who couldn’t be caught. Mantellato’s conversion pulled KR within four points of the visitors.

However Ridyard’s drop-goal four minutes from time sealed the victory for Leigh and means they head into the game against Huddersfield still unbeaten. Hull KR travel to London.

Hull KR: Cockayne, Sio, Minns, Thornley, Mantellato; Marsh, Blair; Tilse, Lunt, Allgood, Greenwood, Clarkson, Walker.

Interchanges: Mulhern, Larroyer, Donaldson, Lawler.

Leigh: McNally, Higson, Worthington, Brown, Dawson; Ridyard, Drinkwater; Hock, Higham, Weston, Maitua, Tickle, Paterson.

Interchanges: Hood, Hansen, Dixon, Hopkins.

Referee: R. Hicks. Touch Judges: A. Martin & C. Kendall. Video Referee: J. Child.

Sheffield Eagles 32-28 Dewsbury Rams – Match Report

The Eagles managed to fightback from a twenty-point deficit to win their first game in three weeks as they overcame the Dewsbury Rams 32-28.

Menzie Yere scored with the last play of the game as he broke down the left flank before cutting inside to round off the comeback.

This came on the back of four unanswered tries from the Eagles with Keal Carlile and Quentin-Laula Togagae crossing as well as Championship top try-scorer Rob Worrincy grabbing a double.

Nathan Conroy had scored early on in the second half to give the Rams a twenty-point lead after Luka Adamson, Dalton Grant, Etu Uaisele and Aaron Brown had all scored in the first half for the visitors. Mark Mexico scored just before the interval adding to Menzie Yere’s first.

Dewsbury crossed twice in the opening stages with Luke Adamson powering his way over from a few yards out after the Rams had kept the ball alive. The Eagles looked for an immediate response but QLT’s pass was intercepted by Dalton Grant who then raced the length of the field to extend the visitors early lead.

The Eagles did get on the board a few moments later though and this time QLT’s pass was perfect for Menzie Yere who caught the ball and burrowed his way over out wide.

James Glover had only converted one of the Rams two tries so when the opportunity to kick for goal arose Shane Grady added an extra two for the visitors.

Etu Uaisele was next to cross for Dewsbury as he took the ball from first receiver from a scrum and found a gap out wide before capitalising. This was soon followed by Aaron Brown’s effort as he hit the ball at pace on the angle and forced his way over from close range.

Mark Aston’s side did grab a try just before the break however as interchange Mark Mexico broke through the middle of the Dewsbury defence and made it to the line.

In similar fashion to the first half however the visitors crossed first when Paul Sykes sent Brown through a gap before Brown found Nathan Conroy in support who finished the move off.

With the Eagles now twenty points behind QLT initiated the comeback as he used his footwork to create an opening and dive over. Sheffield maintained their pressure as Michael Knowles and Menzie Yere linked up before finding Rob Worrincy who sped to the line out wide.

Hooker Keal Carlile was next to score for the Eagles as he managed to force his way under the Rams defence from behind the play-the-ball. Worrincy doubled his account for the evening when Cory Aston found him with an inch-perfect cross-field kick which the winger took and finished well under pressure.

With the last play of the game Yere collected the ball thirty yards out before racing down the flank stepping inside and diving over next to the sticks to give the Eagles their first win in three weeks.

Eagles: QLT, Worrincy, Yere, Tyson, Blackmore; Hewitt, Aston; Thorpe, Carlile, Stringer, Knowles, James, Minchella.

Interchanges: Fozard, Mexico, Neal, Wheeldon.

Dewsbury: Guzdek, Morton, Crookes, Uaisele, Grant; Glover, Kain; Adamson, Conroy, Hepworth, Hale, Grady, Farrell.

Interchanges: Brown, Teanby, Sykes, Trout.

Referee: J. Roberts. Touch Judges: T. Crashley & T. Hudson. Attendance: 441

Oldham Roughyeds 21-20 Sheffield Eagles – Match Report

Lewis Palfrey’s drop-goal was the difference as Sheffield Eagles fell 21-20 to the Oldham Roughyeds at Bower Fold.

Palfrey’s late one-pointer came just a few minutes after Matt James had levelled the scores at 20-20 however Cory Aston missed the conversion which would have given the Eagles the lead.

Oldham scored two quick tries in the early stages of the second half with both Michael Ward and Kenny Hughes crossing. A try from Matty Fozard followed to keep the Eagles in touching distance.

Sheffield actually led at half-time after Fozard and Menzie Yere both benefited from low grubber kicks. Liam Johnson’s long-range effort put the Roughyed’s on the board before the interval.

Rob Worrincy returned to the Eagles side following Garry Lo’s injury last week against Bradford whilst Michael Knowles came back into the side starting on the bench.

The Eagles took just over five minutes to open the scoring when Rhys Jacks’ low kick was collected by Fozard who spun and planted the ball down. Aston followed up with the conversion.

Both defences were working hard keeping chances to a minimum but the Eagles did manage to extend their lead. Another dangerous grubber kick, this time from Aston, was chased down by Yere who managed to ground the ball before it went dead. Aston converted.

Oldham didn’t go into the break scoreless however as Johnson reacted quickest to Aston’s low kick taking it on the full before racing eighty metres to score under the posts just before half-time. Palfrey converted.

The Roughyeds took control in the early stages of the second half crossing twice in the space for three minutes. Ward managed to force his way over for Oldham following a Richard Lepori break from deep inside his own half. Palfrey converted from in front of the sticks.

Just moments later back-to-back penalties took Oldham to the Eagles line again and this time Hughes jumped from hooker and burrowed his way under the Sheffield defenders to put the home side ahead. Palfrey converted.

Fozard notched his second try of the game when he threw a dummy and went over from a few yards out after Lepori had fumbled Jacks’ high bomb. However Aston skewed his kick wide meaning the Eagles trailed by two.

Sheffield continued to push forward as Keal Carlile was held-up over the line but another penalty for Oldham would allow Palfrey to kick for goal and extend the home sides lead to four points. The Eagles followed this by keeping the ball alive and earning a repeat set which allowed James to crash over to level the game. However, Aston again sliced his conversion.

Mark Mexico would then knock-on from the kick-off which gave Oldham and Palfrey position to kick a drop-goal to sneak back in front. Sheffield had one last attack and they opted to kick wide for the victory instead of putting over a drop-goal of their own. The kick was collected by Jamal Chisholm who was tackled in the air and the Eagles came away with nothing.

Eagles: QLT, Worrincy, Yere, Tyson, Millar; Aston, Jacks; Thorpe, Carlile, Neal, James, Straugheir, Fozard.

Interchanges: Minchella, Blagbrough, Knowles, Mexico.

Oldham: Lepori, Clay, Gee, Johnson, Chisholm; Palfrey, Roper; Joy, Owen, Dickinson, Thompson, Middlehurst, Hope.

Interchanges: Burke, Ward, Hughes, Spencer.

Referee: Jonathan Roberts. Attendance: 724

Bradford Bulls 28 – 46 Sheffield Eagles – Match Report

Mark Aston’s side ended their run of four successive league defeats with an emphatic 28-46 victory over Bradford at Odsal.

Three tries in succession during the second half were pivotal for the Eagles as they opened up a twenty-two-point lead with Mark Mexico, Duane Straugheir scoring before Ryan Millar finished off a brilliant team try. George Tyson also scored late on.

Garry Lo managed to grab a length of the field effort in the opening stages of the second half. Millar’s first and Elliot Minchella’s try gave the Eagles the lead at half-time after Cory Aston started the first half fightback with his interception.

Bradford had taken the lead with two early tries from Danny Addy and Lee Gaskell. Omari Caro got the Bulls back into the game in the second half but by the time James Clare and Kris Welham crossed their tries were nothing more than consolation.

Aston had swapped the side around after a poor Easter period which involved defeats to both Featherstone and Dewsbury. Experienced players Rob Worrincy, Mitch Stringer and Michael Knowles all dropped from the side whilst Dave Hewitt missed out due to injury. Garry Lo, Rhys Jacks and Jack Blagbrough all returned for the Eagles.

James Lowes also made changes to his Bradford side who had only won on of their last six games. Adrian Purtell returned to scrum-half as well as Kris Welham returning to centre and Oscar Thomas replacing Richie Mathers. Etu Uaisele and Jean-Philippe Bail dropped from the side along with Matty Blythe who remained injured.

The Bulls started on top and an early forty-twenty from Lee Gaskell gave the home side an opportunity to open the scoring which they did as Addy crashed over from close range.

Gaskell was central to the Bulls’ second as he slotted through a grubber kick which he collected himself and slid in under the posts.

However just as it looked Bradford may start to extend their lead Adrian Purtell’s pass inside his own half was intercepted by Aston who raced to the line from 20 metres out to get the Eagles on the scoreboard.

Sheffield managed to continue to turn the momentum of the game in their favour and interchange Mark Mexico got a hand free before offloading to Minchella who finished. Aston’s conversion drew the visitors level.

But the Eagles weren’t done as they piled more pressure on the Bradford line and eventually earned the lead on the hooter. An accurate looping pass from QLT found young winger Millar who pulled out an amazing one-handed finish under pressure from three defenders in the corner. Aston again converted from touchline to give the Eagles a six-point lead at the break.

The Eagles carried on just as they’d left off in the first half when Lo scored a brilliant solo effort. Gaskell’s cross-field kick was collected by Lo on his own line before the Papua New Guinean ran the length of the field and finished despite Caro’s best efforts. Aston missed the conversion but followed up with a successful penalty goal a few minutes later.

However Gaskell’s next cross-field kick proved profitable for Bradford as Caro climbed above Millar to close the Eagles lead. But Sheffield didn’t let this or kicking the ball out on the full from kick-off affect them as they followed up to score three tries in unanswered tries.

Mexico was first to cross as he threw a dummy and strolled over from yards out on the back of Aston’s one-on-one rip from Oscar Thomas. QLT would follow this with a break from deep before finding Millar who was brought down. However a quick play-the-ball allowed Rhys Jacks to find Straugheir out wide who went in untouched.

The game was sealed for the Eagles when Tyson threw the ball out wide to Menzie Yere deep in his own half however Yere powered around Clare and fended him off before finding an onrushing Millar. The youngster sprinted the final 60m to finish off an unbelievable Sheffield try under the posts.

Late on Bradford managed to cross out wide through Clare however Sheffield quickly cancelled it out when Tyson powered his way over in the corner. Welham would finish the scoring off for Bradford but it was nothing but a consolation for the home side.

Sheffield face a trip to Oldham next week who managed to pull of an upset against Batley whilst Bradford travel to Dewsbury to face the side who knocked them out of this seasons Challenge Cup.

Bradford: Thomas, Caro, Clare, Welham, Campbell; Gaskell, Purtell; Clough, O’Brien, Crossley, Haggerty, Ferguson, Addy.

Interchanges: Olbison, Pitts, Fleming, Clark.

Sheffield: QLT, Lo, Yere, Tyson, Millar; Aston, Jacks; Thorpe, Carlile, Neal, James, Straugheir, Fozard.

Interchanges: Blagbrough, Mexico, Wheeldon, Minchella.

Referee: B. Thaler Attendance: 4234